How to talk to men. Or not.

I’m so excited that we are going camping tomorrow. Three nights in a tent at Lake Allouette. It’s all down to my sons’ caregiver being organized enough to book a Long Weekend site two months in advance, and being kind enough to invite us along. Camping is a big step in moving a relationship from professional to personal. I hope we can live up to it. So far the kids are selling us. My older son is the same age as hers’, so a handy playmate. Son #2 is a pretty good daycare buddy, since he rarely acts up with other people.

I’m a bit nervous though. We are 10 years older, so the pressure is on to keep up beer-wise. Just kidding. Still, we want to keep exuding whatever it was that made us hip enough to invite in the first place.

Also, she’s invited a pile of her other friends who don’t have kids. That’s the part making me nervous. Usually, people that don’t have kids think kid people are a little bit lame. So I won’t be able to socialize by shoving my kids out in front and talking about their problems. I’ll have to talk about my problems. Or at least me. Yuck.

Usually, I take one of two tactics: 1) Totally ignore the strangers. 2) Totally ham it up and win them over with my hilarious, astute and well-informed soliloquies.

Clearly the trouble with the first is that I will appear to be a total asshole and never get invited camping again. The trouble with the second (besides the tiny chance that I’m not really that funny) is that it comes across as flirtatious, like I’m on the pull.

Really. This is true. My very own dear husband even told me to stop doing it once…and this was years before we even started dating. “Wendy,” he said, “you don’t have to act full-on like that to make guys like you. You’re interesting just as yourself.”

Aaaaw. Sweet, right? That was the first time I was aware that other people were aware of my please-like-me-I’m-fun act. But it still didn’t stop me from doing it. It’s such a reflex – either I’m sullen and boring, or fun, loud and flirtatious.

Truly yoga and meditation have been more assistance than the pills on this one. I breathe before going into a social situation, reminding myself that the breath stays the same no matter what. I am myself with every breath.

And yet, I found myself doing it again a few months ago. I signed up to canvass a neighbourhood for an upcoming by-election – really outside my comfort zone, but that was my goal. It’s ok I told myself, as I chatted with the other canvassers at our JJ Bean meeting point. They’re just people. I have to start somewhere.

And then, unexpectedly the candidate turned up. So ….basically … a celebrity. And tall, good-looking and charming, as you’d expect a candidate to be. Similar also to my husband (except the tall part) who I am deeply in love with and not looking to fool around on.

Still, I suddenly clammed up. Wouldn’t turn my head to acknowledge him, say congrats, or How you doin’, or anything, even though he was right beside me. I’m sure he was pleased that his campaign manager had recruited such a personable canvasser. So dumb.

The canvassing turned out to be quite fun. I was partnered with the less good-looking, slightly nerdy campaign manager, so I was able to speak again no problem. (He wasn’t a big loser or anything. I’d probably date him. If I was on the hunt. But I’m not.) We all met up afterwards for pints, including the candidate. Of course, now I turn into loud, vivacious Wendy. Smiling, laughing at all his jokes, cracking many myself, telling amusing anecdotes directed totally at him. From then on, all the pleading “we need your help” campaign emails came from his personal account. No doubt the campaign manager recognized my exploitation potential as a workhorse. I never answered.

I look back and think ….what? What is the matter with me? It’s like a super-embarrassing switch inside me. Don’t I have a middle track?

So, dumb as it sounds, I am afraid of how I will act on this trip to the woods. Got stacks of books just in case I decide to play it sullen. New bathing suit in case I decide to go Cougar Vamp. Children for if I just want to look like the fun, totally devoted mother.

Egad. Please don’t tell the feminists.

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